CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — When it mattered most, when Miami needed one defensive stand to force overtime, the Hurricanes simply couldn't do it.
That fact, perhaps as much as a loss that might have taken them out of the national-title race, clearly irked coach Larry Coker.
"It's mind-boggling," he said.
Connor Barth booted a 42-yard field goal on the final play of the game, giving North Carolina a shocking 31-28 victory over the fourth-ranked Hurricanes on Saturday night.
Miami was one of seven unbeaten teams at the start of the day.
"We never even talked about a national championship," Coker said. "What we did talk about is beating North Carolina. That didn't happen."
When Miami called a timeout just before the kick, fans began lining the hedges just outside the sidelines in preparation for the celebration. The ball flew just inside the left upright, and soon the field was covered with people, celebrating North Carolina's first win over a top-five opponent. Both goal posts went down.
"It's the best feeling in the world," Barth said. "I've never made a game-winner like that. That was the first one ever, and what a game to do it in."
Darian Durant led the Tar Heels (4-4, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) on a 65-yard drive for the winning points, completing all four passes and getting the final five yards on a keeper up the middle. He finished 21-for-29 for 266 yards and two touchdowns, and Chad Scott overcame an injured hip to rush for a career-high 175 yards.
"It just goes to show that anybody can be beaten on any given day, especially in this conference," Durant said.
Miami (6-1, 3-1) trailed by seven points with 5:24 left, but Brock Berlin drove his team 89 yards to tie it. Devin Hester went in on a sweep from the 11, setting up the final possession for Durant and North Carolina.
"My hat's off to North Carolina," Coker said. "They outplayed us overall and deserved to win the football game. We win as a team and lose as a team, and that's the case for us tonight."
Coker's team showed signs of faltering in recent weeks despite winning its first six games for the fourth straight season. In the previous two games, the Hurricanes allowed a total of 947 yards in victories over Louisville and North Carolina State, and the Tar Heels also took advantage.